Children lie for many different reasons. Some may lie because they do not want to get into trouble, or they may think that the truth is boring. Whatever the reason behind it, a parents reaction is usually the same. They are angry and what to make the child learn that lying will not be accepted in the family. As much as we try to convey this message, sometimes it gets lost in the translation. My seven-year-old son has just start to lie a lot to us, and I have been perplexed as how to deal with this problem. There are many ways to help your school age child lie less.
Why do they lie?
The first way to lessen the amount of lies is to understand why they lie. Most children lie because they do not want to get into trouble (many may not realize that more trouble follows lying then the truth), but there are other reasons also. Sometimes the truth is just to dull for the child, and so they tell a ‘tale’ to make it more exciting. James Lehman, a behavioral therapist, says that often kids lie because they don’t think it hurts anyone. Lehman believes that all lies can be based off this truth, even lies from teenagers, which seem much more severe.
If your child is afraid to get into trouble, you may be setting them up to lie. Often times, if we ask probing questions in a disapproving tone our kids will shut down and feel forced to lie. For example, if your child comes home with a bloody nose because of a fight and you say “I told you never to fight at school….did you get that from a fight?” you may be setting up the child to lie. The child does not want to get into trouble for the fight so they lie and say something else. A better way to approach this situation is to just simply ask, “What happened?” Asking open-ended questions can make your child feel better about telling the truth.
Setting an example
Many parents understand that their kids watch every move you make, and will copy your own behaviors. Are you setting examples for lying? You may not even realize it when you do. In an experiment quoted in this article, they showed some examples of when we may even teach our children to lie. The experiment was set up as a game for some kids. When the kids won, they were often very excited. Then they were told that the prize was a bar of soap. However, when asked if they liked the bar of soap they said yes, but body language said otherwise. They would fidget and be very quiet. Do you tell you children to like any present they are given? How about when you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding and tell them a lie about how fast you were going? Some of these may seem small, but kids pick up everything. Unless you are ready to become hyperaware of every single lie you tell, it is just not feasible for someone to never lie. The lesson here is to explain to yourself why you did what you did, what you learned from it, and how it really helped or hurt you.
By keeping a calm attitude and being a bit more acceptable about why lies happen you should be able to reduce the about of lies your children tell. Lying needs to be punished, but if it is too severe, it may just lead to another lie the next time. The key is patience and understanding. Perhaps showing your child that you can understand what you learn about a lie will actually show your child that they don’t have to lie.